When I woke up on my first day of summer holidays this post by Nicholas Provenzano came up on my twitter feed. In the post Provenzano does what most educators do at the end of the year. He thinks back on the year that has passed.
At the end of the year, every teacher will have a few words to describe their last ten months. Some will have a tone of “good riddance”. Some will talk about memorable experiences. Some will talk about lessons learned. Some will talk about successes and failures. Not everyone blogs about their thoughts, but I’d be shocked if there was any educator that didn’t have something to say about their year.
What makes Provenzano’s reflection special is that he involves his students in the process. He tries to learn from their voices as well as his thoughts on the year.
This year I did something similar with my students. Together they made videos to welcome future students to my class. We called them grade five trailers. Their job was to get my future students excited about the learning that they will be doing next year. Take a peak at these samples:
The best part of the assignment was that I really got to see my teaching through my students’ eyes. I got to see what stuck after 194 days of learning. Although all of the trailers are different, I did manage to find some trends:
1) My students really valued experiential learning.
2) My students loved “the big stuff”. Large scale assignments and projects were their favourites.
3) They remembered the skills that they acquired more than the lessons that got them there.
4) My students loved learning from other people (their peers, guest speakers, experts that Skyped into our class).
I wonder what would happen if we were able to collect all of the end-of-year reflections in a staff and use them to inform the teaching in their school. Reflections could be recorded in a variety of forms: audio or video interview, written reflection, photos etc. In the year’s first staff meeting teachers could review their reflections and share them with their peers. Maybe the staff would find some trends: areas of strength or need for the school. Those trends might be used to inform the school’s direction for the next year.
The process would not be easy.
Most staff members (teachers, administrators, support staff) are exhausted at the end of the year. Piling more work on top of staff woudl likely not be received well. Having said that, the amount of perspective that teachers have around what has worked and what needs fixing at the end of the year is at a high. If that perspective could somehow be channeled into improving the learning in a school, then reflections would become more than words and ideas. Reflections would become agents of change.